Meet Ant Jones. He’s your average guy, likes riding bikes, works as a Tree Surgeon, and he home built a Turbo’d VR6 Caddy because ‘everyone’ said that it shouldn’t be done!
13 years in…
This project hasn’t just happened overnight. Ant explains “I’ve had this 13 years. I used to do a lot of MTB racing as a teenager, and I saw a Mk1 Caddy at an event and knew I wanted one from then.” This isn’t Ant’s first car though “I had about 9-10 cars in the first few years of driving, nothing special, just cheap runarounds, then I saw this for sale!”
“The cleanest Caddy I’ve ever seen”
“I went down to Somerset to view this with my Dad. It had two rust bubbles on the load bed, and that was it – it was so clean. I’m so glad he didn’t talk me out of it, I’ve not seen one in pre-resto condition with less rust – all the projects you see online are rotten!” It looks a little different today, with its fresh vinyl wrap courtesy of CHR and pick-up bed finished in black RAPTOR, not to mention the carbon tailgate, black powder-coated bumper, and the rather large Heritage Parts Centre decals recently applied for Brighton Speed Trials.
Having studied agricultural engineering at college, Ant is pre-programmed to tinker and it wasn’t long before he’d addressed the ride height on his dark green purchase with a ‘rear axle flip’ and coil-overs at the front. A set of G60 Steel wheels took care of aesthetics under the arches to start with, although these days Ant’s rolling on a set of faux-Split Snowflakes wrapped in sticky Toyos to help transmit the power to the tarmac.
The need for speed
Ant’s Caddy may have looked a little more sporty but it was still chugging along with the original 1.6 petrol (the Diesel badge is just for fun!) For a guy who gets his kicks flying down hillsides on a pushbike, things needed to change. Initially, a 1800cc 16v engine was bolted into place, pretty much doubling the horsepower overnight. Alas, that wasn’t enough for Ant! “The VR6 swap was as much about the noise and the power, as it was to prove to people it could be done and not ruin the car. Plus I thought the 1.8T swap would be too easy.”
True to his word, our ‘Have-a-go-Hero’ bought a Mk3 VR6 donor car in the dark, drove it an hour home and got to it! Cracking out the welder, Ant made up some new engine mount brackets to support the six-shooter in the bay, doing away with the need for swapping the subframe over too. “The original mount on the left (gearbox side) was kept, all the others are new, including extra front bracing to help with the weight and power increase”.
Followed by Forced Induction…
There is a pattern to this build… With another couple of years driving under his belt, Ant got the urge for more power, and in particular forced induction. As you would expect from this ‘no-holds-barred engineer’ a Turbo was sourced from the worlds favourite auction site and swiftly installed. With the basics in place, Ant has spent the past 4 years chasing more power, reliability and re-doing bits he wasn’t happy with. We do a quick bit of man maths at the side of the road and reckon there’s £10k in parts under his carbon effect bonnet. “There’ll be a real one bolted up soon” Ant assures me!
The bits you don’t see…
“I can’t speak highly enough of Emerald, who mapped the car for me. Their customer service is the best I’ve experienced, anywhere, ever. If I get a problem, I can call them and they’ll log in to my ECU remotely and tell me what’s wrong!” On top of the posh electronics are ARP headstuds, Wossner forged low compression pistons, Garret GTX3582R gen 2 Turbo, PEC Forged conrods, intercooler and even a 50-shot of NOS! “One of my favourite bits is the installation and pipework for the fuel pump, hidden under the back – it’s never seen by anyone!!”
I’ve been trying to get a passenger ride in this Caddy for years, and not got around to it until today. Ant happily obliges “the seatbelt is a bit sticky on that side” he comments as we pull away… I’ve never buckled a belt so quickly!! With his BTR Mountain bike casually chucked in the back Ant gives it a squirt of throttle and we take off like a scalded cat. The road is slightly damp and 450 horses don’t come quietly, or entirely in a straight line, but it is evident they are very much present!
If you go down to the woods today…
Ant offers to take us to the local woods that he rides at, so we head down the road to check it out. He’s been riding here since he was a kid and knows the paths like the back of his hand – coupled with his experience as a Tree Surgeon, he’s got some great tales to tell – including climbing a 130ft tree that’s head and shoulders above everything else in the forest. We stop off at a few jumps and Ant gives us a bunch of fly-bys for the camera “This is nothing, wait till you see the Trails…”
Sadly the Trials built by him and his friends are too wet to ride, but we get a full tour all the same – some of the ramps are taller than me! We can’t wait to go back when it’s dry to watch them all in action.
Brighton Speed Trials
As mentioned above, Ant recently raced his Caddy at Brighton Speed Trials, recording a top speed of 111mph over a quarter-mile distance. Sadly his Pick up was suffering from shifting problems, but he has already rebuilt his gearbox since the event and together with a set of slicks he should knock at least a second off his high 12-second pass. His ultimate goal is a 10-second run. Stay tuned for feedback from his next attempt at Santa Pod this autumn.
Set out to win…
Ant’s mindset that he can win regardless comes from his teenage years racing bikes but extends to campaigning the Caddy and even overcoming engineering obstacles to build the truck in the first place. I think this is a great attitude to have when working on a project car. This build is proof that it can be done, even if it does take 13 years… If you’re working on something cool this winter, don’t give up (and tag us in your progress pics #driveheritage).